My German Shepherd Ivan is no stranger to fitness. From the moment he joined our household five years ago, my husband and I made sure he had plenty of play time and took plenty of walks because we knew that a tired puppy was a good puppy.
The same theory applies to the five-year-old dog currently torturing the neighborhood squirrels. Both his size and his energy levels have increased since he was eight weeks old. His fitness needs have increased, too.
He is a monster when it’s pouring rain, or too hot, or too cold to go outside for a walk. He roams anxiously around the house, barking at nothing and looking at my husband and me like we can fix the weather.
It. Is. Torture.
Whether your best friend is a tiny Terrier or a much larger Labrador, your dog needs exercise to stay healthy and be happy. And to keep your carpets, doorways, shoes and, well you get the idea, in unmarred condition.
How much exercise your dog needs will depend on several factors, and you might have to determine your dog’s needs through trial and error. Humans need 30-60 minutes of cardio daily, but your dog might need more or less than that. (Talking to a veterinarian will also be helpful.)
As I mentioned, my dog’s energy levels increased from his pintsized puppyhood to his five-year-old, 110-pound, I-sound-like-thunder-when-I-run-through-the-house stage. My husband and I play fetch with Ivan until he stops bringing the ball back. When we take him for a walk, he starts with a fast pace and leads us through the neighborhood. We can tell his is tuckered out by his slowed pace and sagging leash. Generally, though, puppies need far more exercise than adult dogs simply because they are bundles of energy (and because you want them to sleep through the night). However, in a contrary example, my sister-in-law has a 10-year-old Corgi who can play fetch for hours.
My husband’s and my go-to exercise for Ivan is to take him for a long walk, but there are several other ways to include your dog in your regular exercise routine.
Walking and running are obviously the two easiest ways to exercise with your dog. If he’s on a leash, you are set to walk or run in any environment. Remember to be aware of his physical abilities, and let him lead the run. A short-snouted Pug will likely not keep up with your run, and a built-for-the-track Greyhound is a better runner than you. (My dog sure is.)
You can also climb stairs to get in a workout with your dog. If you don’t have stairs, find a nearby hilly area. Uphill walking and running will wear you and your dog out faster and burn more calories than walking on a level surface. Again, be aware of your dog’s physical abilities.
Swimming with a life vest is the perfect exercise for dogs, especially for geriatric dogs with joint problems or hip dysplasia. Swimming is also good for adult humans who have the same joint issues. The water takes away the body weight so less pressure is put on sore hips and knees. Plus, the dog is also getting a bath. Two birds, one stone. Wet dog.
If it’s too hot, or too cold, or pouring rain and you cannot take your dog outside to exercise, play with him in the house. Move the furniture against the walls and roll around with him. (Apologize in advance to your downstairs neighbors.) Throw a ball from one room to another, which is a playtime breeds of all shapes and sizes can enjoy. When I can’t take Ivan outside for a walk, I clear a path from one end of the house to the other and let him chase me. My husband “wrestles” with him when he has too much energy at night. Not only are we getting in some good cardio, but we’re also getting in some good bonding time.
Our dog is very big and active. He needs a lot of exercise. Find out your dog’s exercise needs through experimentation and by talking to your veterinarian.
Shae Blevins is a diet and fitness blogger from Wichita, Kansas. She shares her workout space (and sometimes her food) with her German Shepherd, Ivan, and club-footed orange tabby, Hobbes, both of whom will be making numerous appearances in her blogs.